Perspectives on sex and pregnancy in red states and blue

The New Yorker has written an article on the differences between teenage sex/pregnancy in traditionally blue states and red states.  It’s fascinating, if for nothing else, then for putting into words what most people think is a giant elephant in the American sex room.

During the campaign, the media has largely respected calls to treat Bristol Palin’s pregnancy as a private matter. But the reactions to it have exposed a cultural rift that mirrors America’s dominant political divide. Social liberals in the country’s “blue states” tend to support sex education and are not particularly troubled by the idea that many teen-agers have sex before marriage, but would regard a teen-age daughter’s pregnancy as devastating news. And the social conservatives in “red states” generally advocate abstinence-only education and denounce sex before marriage, but are relatively unruffled if a teen-ager becomes pregnant, as long as she doesn’t choose to have an abortion. […]

The gulf between sexual belief and sexual behavior becomes apparent, too, when you look at the outcomes of abstinence-pledge movements. Nationwide, according to a 2001 estimate, some two and a half million people have taken a pledge to remain celibate until marriage. Usually, they do so under the auspices of movements such as True Love Waits or the Silver Ring Thing. Sometimes, they make their vows at big rallies featuring Christian pop stars and laser light shows, or at purity balls, where girls in frothy dresses exchange rings with their fathers, who vow to help them remain virgins until the day they marry. More than half of those who take such pledges—which, unlike abstinence-only classes in public schools, are explicitly Christian—end up having sex before marriage, and not usually with their future spouse. The movement is not the complete washout its critics portray it as: pledgers delay sex eighteen months longer than non-pledgers, and have fewer partners. Yet, according to the sociologists Peter Bearman, of Columbia University, and Hannah Brückner, of Yale, communities with high rates of pledging also have high rates of S.T.D.s. This could be because more teens pledge in communities where they perceive more danger from sex (in which case the pledge is doing some good); or it could be because fewer people in these communities use condoms when they break the pledge.

The analysis is pretty objective and highly fascinating.  Especially the look at teen pregnancy and divorce rates and the divide between red states and blue states (I hate that term to be honest but it’s easily the most applicable one in this sense).  I wasn’t aware that teen pregnancy and divorce were highest in traditionally red states and lowest in places like New Jersey, Massachusetts, Vermont, etc.

It also makes me wonder how it is that social conservatives on a national level have usurped the notion that they are the ones with strong family values and that liberal progressive are socialist heathens who will rip the family usunder.

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